BPA Fish and Wildlife FY 1997 Proposal

Section 1. Administrative
Section 2. Narrative
Section 3. Budget

see CBFWA and BPA funding recommendations

Section 1. Administrative

Title of project
Evaluation of Watershed and Habitat Response to Recent Storms: Effects on Salmon Listed Under the Esa

BPA project number   5506300

Business name of agency, institution or organization requesting funding
Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

Sponsor type   CRITFC

Proposal contact person or principal investigator
 NameJonathan Rhodes/F.Al Espinosa
 Mailing address729 NE Oregon, Suite 200
Portland, OR 97232

BPA technical contact   , EWN

Biological opinion ID   

NWPPC Program number   7.6C.2, 7.6D

Short description
Monitor and evaluate erosion and channel changes caused by flooding in watersheds with salmon habitat; use results to prioritize efforts to restore watersheds and salmon habitat and improve salmon survival in natal habitat.

Project start year   1997    End year   1998

Start of operation and/or maintenance   0

Project development phase   

Section 2. Narrative

Related projects
Planning, Implementation

Project history

Biological results achieved

Annual reports and technical papers

Management implications
Although this is a new proposal, its results should have major implications for efforts to restore watersheds and habitat and improve egg-to-smolt survival. The NMFS and the USFS have assumed that incremental improvement in on-going and new land management actions relative to past practices will result in improvement in natal salmon habitat and salmon survival. This study will test the NMFS hypothesis by evaluating how managed watersheds have responded to the recent flood events in comparison to watersheds with little or no history of anthropogenic disturbance. The results will also provide an updated assessment of the current condition of key aspects of salmon habitat that shape salmon survival that can be a useful geographic focus for efforts to save weak salmon stocks from extirpation. The results will also aid in establishing regional watershed restoration priorities by providing an assessment of which land management activities resulted in the greatest flood damage to salmon habitat. In aggregate, the study should supply information to: check the veracity of current assumptions regarding watershed and habitat management, target degraded habitat attributes in specific watersheds requiring recovery, and prioritize regional watershed restoration needs.

Specific measureable objectives
Evaluate how selected drainage basins and embedded salmon habitats responded to rain-on-snow events of November 1995 and February 1996. Determine the return interval for the storms and floods to estimate their probable frequency in the future. Summarize the effect of watershed response on salmon habitat and current conditions affecting salmon survival from egg to smolt. Assess likely impacts on egg-to-smolt survival from changed habitat conditions within watersheds. Investigate differences in watershed and habitat response according to watershed condition and management history. Characterize watershed response from various activities, e.g. percentage of mass failures within watersheds associated with roads, clearcuts, and undisturbed areas. Attempt to identify and rank specific practices resulting habitat damage, e.g. types and locations of roads most prone to failure. Based on findings, identify high priority measures to restore and protect salmon survival from egg to smolt.

Testable hypothesis
1) Watersheds with greater magnitude of land disturbance, such as logging and road construction, responded differently to the flood events than watersheds with a lesser magnitude of land disturbance.
2) Salmon habitats in watersheds with a greater magnitude of land disturbance, such as logging and road construction, responded differently to the flood events than those in watersheds with a lesser magnitude of land disturbance.
3) Incremental improvement in federal land management has resulted in improved habitat conditions that increase salmon survival.
4) Specific types of land disturbance (e.g. types and locations of roads) responded differently to the floods.

Underlying assumptions or critical constraints
It is critical to initiate the project quickly to take advantage of a critical, uncommon, and short-lived opportunity to evaluate the response of watersheds and salmon habitats to severe storm events. Detection of watershed response to the floods will be more difficult as time goes on. Current habitat conditions also provide a critical context for effective watershed restoration and land management. Therefore, it is critical to complete the study as quickly as possible. If the study is not initiated and completed by the fall of 1997, the opportunity to evaluate watershed response to the floods will have passed.

Use available information for large drainage basins ranging in area from 750-1500 mi2 in the Interior Columbia Basins to select two or three appropriate basins as areas for study of watershed and habitat response to the flood events in 1995 and 1996. Basins will be selected on the basis of known storm impacts, comparability to other basins, and the availability of aerial photo, geo-climatic, hydrologic, fish habitat, biotic and other data pertinent to analyses to be conducted. These basins will also be selected so that the include smaller watersheds that are comparable in physical attributes but that have had different levels of anthropogenic land disturbance. Based on preliminary information, one selected basin will be within the Clearwater River drainage in Idaho, one in the Salmon River drainage in Idaho, and, possibly, one in the Blue Mountain Province of Oregon and Washington.

In each selected basin with an area of 750-1500 mi2, several smaller watersheds (10-100 mi2) that are comparable in physical attributes (e.g. elevation, geology, vegetation, etc) but that have had subjected to different levels of anthropogenic land disturbance will be selected for intensive investigation of watershed and habitat response to the storm events. A minimum of two of these smaller watersheds within each selected basin will be selected for intensive investigation. To the extent possible, the watersheds selected from within a given study basin for intensive investigation will be nested in a paired treatment (significantly logged and roaded) versus control (pristine or relatively unaltered) study design. Drainage area, geo-climatic characteristics, landtypes, fire history, and native aquatic communities be used to select watersheds for intensive study. Sampling within the selected watersheds will be structured to (1) allow appropriately varied scales of analysis and (2) include detailed examinations of failure mechanisms in watersheds (treatment or control).

Chrono-sequences of pre-storm air photos will be obtained for each of the intensively studied watersheds to establish the pre-storm baseline conditions. To the extent they are available, post-storm photos will be used to augment evaluation of watershed and channel response (e.g. frequency of mass failure or channel widening) to the storms. If post-storm air photos are unavailable, the intensively studied watersheds will be investigated by air. The number and location of mass failures will be inventoried and any areas of major surface erosion will be identified for additional evaluation on the ground. The mass failure inventory will be used to test for differences in their frequency between watersheds with different levels of land disturbance via standard statistical methods. The inventory will also be used to investigate the frequency of mass failures associated with specific types of anthropogenic land disturbance such as roads or clearcuts. Interviews with resource specialists will be used to augment air photo analysis and aerial reconnaissance.

On-the-ground investigations in each watershed will be used as ground-truthing to identify problems detected (or not detected) from air photos or aerial reconnaissance. The on-the-ground investigations will also be used in each watershed to determine the volume of mass failures at the watershed scale and to examine the failure mechanisms. Where mass failures are associated with anthropogenic land disturbance, the location and type of land disturbance will also be determined (e.g. estimated age of road or clearcut, etc.) These data will be used to investigate relationships among mass failure frequency and magnitude and specific types and locations of land disturbance. Channel widening, sediment deposition, and other habitat conditions in each watershed will also be inventoried in key habitat areas. A less intensive approach will be used to evaluate observable impacts along large rivers within the study basins.

Channel changes, primary zones of sediment deposition and mass failure locations and frequencies will be loaded into a GIS format and GIS maps will be included as part of the report.

Available precipitation and streamflow data from each study basin will be used to the estimate the magnitude of the 1995 and 1996 storm events within selected study basins. The recurrence interval for the precipitation events and peak streamflows will be estimated using standard hydrologic methods (Dunne and Leopold, 1978). This information will also be used to estimate the probability that precipitation and discharge events of equal or greater magnitude occur within these basins over the next 10 and 20 years .

The draft report of study results will be circulated for peer-review.

Brief schedule of activities
All dates are for completion of activities.

Review available information and select study basins-- Oct. 1996

Review available information, watershed attributes and select smaller watersheds for intensive study-- Oct. 1996

Obtain and analyze pre-storm air photos for selected watersheds--Dec. 1996

Obtain and analyze post-storm air photos, if available, for selected watersheds--Dec. 1996

Interview resource specialists to augment air photo analysis--Dec. 1996

Estimate flood and storm magnitudes and recurrence intervals in selected basins--Dec. 1996

Aerial inventory of mass failures in selected watersheds--July 1997

On-the-ground estimation of individual mass failure volumes and investigation of failure mechanisms--Sept. 1997

Inventory of key habitat conditions in key habitat reaches--Sept. 1997

Determination of age and type of disturbance associated with inventoried mass failures--Oct. 1997

Analysis of field data--Nov. 1997

GIS depiction of results--Nov. 1997

Draft report peer-reviewed--Jan. 1998

Final report--Feb. 1998

Biological need
It is abundantly clear that widespread habitat degradation has contributed to the on-going decline of spring chinook in the interior Columbia Basin. Currently, all plans for the restoration of these stocks for call for improvement in degraded habitat conditions and resultant increases in salmon survival as part of aggregate measures to reverse population declines. However, these efforts will have limited effectiveness biologically if the most pressing restoration and protection needs are not identified and implemented. Further, the effects of the floods may have degraded habitat and reduced salmon survival in some drainages. Data from the South Fork Salmon River in Idaho, indicate that landsliding from logging and roads profoundly reduced salmon survival from egg to smolt over a period of more than 30 years. Identification of the most pressing restoration and protection needs provides a means to avoid such degradation and long term reductions in salmon survival during future storm events.

This report seeks to assess the types and severity of changes caused by the floods in watersheds with different histories of anthropogenic land disturbance and thereby provide a context to identify critical habitat recovery needs in some watersheds, priority restoration needs by activity type, and check the effectiveness of recent land management approaches to protecting and restoring habitat during fairly infrequent storm events that may shape salmon survival for decades. By providing such a context, the study can lead to the implementation of land management strategies that will be effective at increasing salmon survival in the Columbia River basin. The project is aimed providing a framework for prioritizing watershed protection and restoration measures needed to improve egg-to-smolt survival for those badly depressed and declining spring and summer chinook stocks in the upper Snake River Basin.

Critical uncertainties

Summary of expected outcome
A report documenting the effects of flooding on watersheds, and the salmon habitats within them, with differing land use histories. The report will summarize the habitat conditions caused by watershed response and assess the biological ramifications for salmon in those habitats. Restoration needs for evaluated watersheds will be identified. Causal mechanisms for watershed response will be identified. The report will also identify primary types of land disturbance associated with damage to salmon habitat and recommend resultant restoration priorities for the general region that are likely to prevent habitat degradation during storm events.

Dependencies/opportunities for cooperation
There are no NEPA analyses required, nor is the consent of other agencies necessary. The project provides an opportunity to cooperate with the USFS in investigating watershed response. It will also provide all federal, state, and tribal entities working to improve egg-to-smolt survival with information that can be used to prioritize restoration efforts and increase the effectiveness of those efforts.


Monitoring activity
The entire project involves monitoring and analysis.

Section 3. Budget

Data shown are the total of expense and capital obligations by fiscal year. Obligations for any given year may not equal actual expenditures or accruals within the year, due to carryover, pre-funding, capitalization and difference between operating year and BPA fiscal year.

Historic costsFY 1996 budget data*Current and future funding needs
(none) New project - no FY96 data available 1997: 115,000
1998: 37,000

* For most projects, Authorized is the amount recommended by CBFWA and the Council. Planned is amount currently allocated. Contracted is the amount obligated to date of printout.

Funding recommendations

CBFWA funding review group   Snake River

Recommendation    Tier 1 - fund

Recommended funding level   $115,000

BPA 1997 authorized budget (approved start-of-year budget)   $115,000